How Can I Find an Affordable Therapist

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When you are already struggling with a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, trying to find an affordable therapist can send you deeper into the depths of panic and despair.  As if deciding to go to therapy isn’t hard enough, you also have to worry about how you are going to afford it.  Whether you have limited funds, a high copay, or an exorbitant deductible, figuring out how to finance your treatment can only add to your stress.  Thankfully, there are several strategies that can assist you in finding an affordable therapy option.

The Affordable Care Act mandates insurance companies to categorize mental health as an essential benefit in individual and small group plans.  Thus, most insurance plans tend to cover a percentage of mental health care services, but the actual percentage varies by plan.  Federal and state regulations dictate that insurance companies cannot charge a higher copay for behavioral health services than for medical services.  This means that a copay to see a therapist cannot be excessively higher than one to see a general medical practioner.

If you have insurance, it would be beneficial to read through your benefits information or call your insurance company directly to find out what your mental health coverage is.  It is important to find out if you have a copay or deductible, if you need a referral or prior authorization, or if certain types of services are covered.  Staying in-network with your insurance plan is always recommended, but if there are no in-network providers nearby, or if they are not taking new patients, it can be helpful to inquire if you have any out-of-network benefits.  Out-of-network benefits could possibly offer other options, but may not be feasible if you have to pay for sessions up front, have high deductibles, or have to submit your own claims.

If you do not have health insurance, or are stuck with a mediocre plan, you can always contact private therapists to inquire if they have a sliding scale.  A sliding scale is a modified fee that is based on a person’s financial situation and is set by the therapist.  In online directories, many therapists will notate whether they offer sliding scale fees or any other types of discounted rates as part of their practice.

If you cannot locate a private therapist with a sliding scale fee, you can consider a mental health agency instead.  There are many agencies that are funded by community, state, and federal resources and provide therapeutic services to people at low to no cost.  It can be advantageous to contact a community agency directly to inquire what their criterion is for sliding scale fees. 

Another potentially more affordable option is finding a counselor that is not fully licensed yet, but in training.  Counselors in training are always under the care of a seasoned, licensed mental health professional to ensure that clients are receiving ethical and quality care.  Counselors that are in training often charge reduced rates due to their pre-licensure level, which may make them a more financially reasonable option.  Counselors in training can be found in college counseling offices, agencies, or may be working alongside a therapist in a private or group practice. 

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Teletherapy has recently become another affordable therapy option.  Although teletherapy is fairly new to the mental health field, it continues to garner attention and gain in popularity.  Teletherapy rates are usually less expensive than face-to-face therapy and still allows for a person to work with a trained and licensed professional.

Struggling with a mental health condition and making the decision to seek therapy can be mentally taxing, especially when you factor in financial concerns.  However, if you are open to some of these strategies, finding an affordable therapist can be a lot easier.

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy  facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.